The Great Wall of China extends for 5,500 miles. It took 200 years to complete. It 2300 +/- years old. It is 20-25 feet tall. That certainly is a lot of wall!!
I would say that my wall of emotional protection rivals the Great Wall of China.
For some, being adopted creates an ongoing fear of rejection. I am one of those adoptees. I have always worried and struggled with the intense emotional feelings that being “not good enough” creates in my entire body. Those feelings have included intense panic in my chest, shortness of breath, stomach aches, over eating (because food does not reject you, it goes IN you) and the “freeze” response where I can not seem to do anything.
I clearly remember being a young child, elementary school age, and worrying constantly about being “taken back” to where ever I came from. I knew I had a ‘failed adoption’ prior to being adopted by my parents, and I never quite understood what that meant. In my little kid’s mind, it meant, “be good, don’t make too much noise, and they will not send you away like before…”
I have lived with this feeling for many years. It has only been in the last 3 years that I have been able to let SOME of those fears go. This year, 2017, has been the year of facing that ‘not good enough’ fear head on. The GOOD news is that I recognize when these fears are starting to come at me, like the Death Eaters in Harry Potter, and I am able to say to them, “now wait right there, I see you, I honor you and you do not get to control me today.” For me, it is all about validating and accepting.
Where did this feeling come from? Here is some science to explain. When an infant is with their mother for 9 months, living in that warm, safe womb, and then at birth, they are taken away from all they have ever known, it creates a feeling of rejection that is cellular in their body. Their little brain can not take in what has happened. This confusion creates stress.
Stress and the brain’s limbic system causes a chain reaction. When there is stress or a trigger, the limbic system (the emotional hard drive of the body) gets activated. The hypothalamus of the limbic system sends the stress hormone, cortisol, flooding into the brain and the body. Increased cortisol in the body can cause a myriad of difficulty connecting to others, depression, increased appetite, interference with learning and memory, lower immune function increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease….and on and on and on.
Imagine, a new born baby with this huge cortisol dump happening in her little brain as soon as they are born. That is how the adopted (if removed at birth) brain responds. It is hard to reconcile that from my first breaths of life that my brain was basically on fire with stress.
My wall is one that I have spent years carefully crafting. I am continually adding mortar to make it strong. I have often stayed, intentionally, hidden behind it as to not be seen. It is only recently that I have decided to have a Reagan moment and to tell my inner critic, Gorbachev to “Tear Down This Wall.”
My greatest fear was being found and seen for who my tiny, scared, hidden infant self was: unwanted, rejected, not good enough, and unacceptable. These are all irrational thoughts. As I matured and grew, I added a door to my wall. This door only has a handle on the inside which is only accessible to me. The door is opened to let those who I feel are safe, who have proven themselves to me as a non-rejector, inside my wall. I open the door, let fear out and let love in. This only can happen for some. It is a wonderful and amazing feeling when that door opens and I accept love.
These past 3 years of intense spiritual, emotional, and grounding growth have shown me that I am NOT what that tiny infant self has always felt. I have been able to nurture her and to hold her in my mind’s arms, loving her for the innocent child she was and continues to be.
I am healing. It has been hard. It has been worth every effort. I am worthy of love and being loved. And, so are you.
For a great article about Cortisol and Stress, and what to do if you are a Cortisol junkie, click here for an article from Psychology Today